Kapelyan was born in Belarus, and now lives and creates in Tel Aviv.
Born in 1936, he spent his early childhood in war-torn Ural. He studied art in the Art Academy in Leningrad in 1952–1956. Soon after, he was conscripted into the army and moved to Kobryn in western Belarus.
At the beginning of the 1960s, Kapelyan decided to continue artistic education. He received a diploma in arts in Minsk, in 1966. At that time, he traveled to many places, including Caucasus, Crimea, Kazakhstan, and Finland. In 1973, he visited Poland.
At the beginning of the 1980s, he emigrated to Israel where he worked as a lecturer in the Institute of Archeology of Tel Aviv University.
In his work, Kapelyan clearly strives to transcend academic limitations and strict rules. He avoids following trends or movements which promulgate any unbending laws of logic. Instead, he consistently works on his individual style. Pointing to the recurring theme of the place of human being in the universe in his art, critics call Kapelyan’s art humanistic. The artist’s landscapes and still nature, fantastic and mystical paintings are metaphorical depictions of the desire to experience the deepest human emotions.
His most important means of expression and composition are line and geometry. It is those lines – which sometimes appear sketchy – that are the purest and most accurate expressions of emotional, intellectual, and esthetic experiences. Kapelyan uses lines as contours and, sometimes, vehicles of movement, according to his vivid imagination. Those strong contours and geometry are a common motif of Kapelyan’s works from the 1990s. The artist tells human history through geometric harmony.
The later period of the Joseph Kapelyan’s artistic career. In the 1990s, Kapelyan painted abstract works with geometric elements interspersed with representations of fragments of the surrounding reality. The artist’s complex personal history allowed him to construct a bridge between his native Belarusian culture and Israeli culture. We can easily find Kapelyan’s rich experience reflected in his paintings rife with references to Judaism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and old art, but also to contemporary times. Israeli critics often emphasize his non-conformism and unbridled creativity. All those elements make up a unique oeuvre.